Twitter Bans Misgendering and Deadnaming in Effort to Fight Transphobic Hate Speech

Twitter has prohibited misgendering and deadnaming trans users in an effort to curb harassment and hate speech on its service.

In its new Terms of Service, Twitter now states that the microblogging platform “[prohibits] targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.”

“This includes targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” the guidelines claim.

These policy updates were originally rolled out back in October, but according to the LGBTQ website PinkNews, they largely flew under the radar until Twitter users noticed the trans-inclusive changes over the Thanksgiving holiday week.

Although the platform has long resisted curbing anti-trans harassment to stave off potential criticism it’s curtailing free speech, the website explains its rationale for the reversal of course. Twitter explains that certain groups are “disproportionately targeted with abuse online,” including “women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, [and] asexual individuals.”

“For those who identity with multiple underrepresented groups, abuse may be more common, more severe in nature, and have a higher impact on those targeted,” its content policies state.

While reaffirming its commitment to free expression, Twitter says freedom of speech entails certain responsibilities on the part of gatekeepers.

“Twitter’s mission is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information, and to express their opinions and beliefs without barriers,” the website states. “Free expression is a human right—we believe that everyone has a voice, and the right to use it.”

“Our role is to serve the public conversation, which requires representation of a diverse range of perspectives,” it continues.  

Twitter hinted at implementing these new guidelines for its more than 330 million users back in September. The website announced it would ban “content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group,” including members of the LGBTQ community.

However, the specifics of that policy have been met with expected criticism by right-wing activists on Twitter.

“It is now a violation of Twitter rule to misgender a trans individual or say “there are only *** genders,” claimed alt-right Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec in a Nov. 24 tweet, adding: “Remember when Conservatives laughed at people getting censored?”

Posobiec, who commands almost 400,000 followers, also predicted these policies would create a slippery slope to other kinds of “censorship.” “Next will be climate change denying,” he argued.

Reaction, though, was largely positive — especially among trans activists who have been fighting for these guidelines for years.

Twitter’s new Terms of Service went viral just hours after Facebook ignited national controversy over its contentious relationship to content moderation. The day before Thanksgiving, the world’s largest social media platform admitted that it had used an opposition research firm to spread anti-Semitic tinged propaganda about progressive billionaire George Soros.

Soros allegedly donated to grassroots groups with “Freedom from Facebook,” a campaign critical of Facebook’s perceived apathy to Russian-backed propaganda on its platform during the 2016 election.

In a painful bit of irony for the embattled company, many have called for a mass exodus from Facebook following the revelations.


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.

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